Social critic urges judges to make lese majeste case
In his testimony as a defence witness on lese majeste charges against the distributor of an Australian Broadcasting Corporation documentary, social critic Sulak Sivaraksa urged judges yesterday to be lenient because His Majesty had said very clearly in his 2005 birthday speech that valid criticism against him should be allowed.
"With due respect, if your honours comprehend His Majesty's speech then please don't sentence people [under the lese majeste law]. Judgement should be made with compassion and not by sticking literally to the text," Sulak told the three-presiding judges at the Criminal Court. He was the last defence witness for Ekachai Hongkangwan.
Ekachai was arrested in March 2011 for peddling copies of the ABC documentary on the future of the Thai monarchy, which was aired in Australia in 2010 and deemed by the police and Office of the Attorney General as defaming the Crown Prince.
Copies of WikiLeaks documents critical of the monarchy were also found inside Ekachai's satchel when he was arrested, which added to the charges brought against him.
Other than encouraging the judges to consider the futility of taking strong action against people for mild criticism of the monarchy, he also reminded them that the German monarchy was ousted due to its excessive use of the lese majeste law.
"In today's world, we cannot continue hiding things any longer," Sulak told the court.
He added that the public should be allowed to decide for themselves whether they want to believe in the content of news or documentaries that are critical of the monarchy.
He said if he was Ekachai, he would have done the same because the public should be kept up-to-date about all information related to the monarchy. "Criticism is part of a democratic system. Even the Buddha said he could be criticised," Sulak told the court.
The verdict is scheduled for March 28.